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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection | post

Don’t Automatically Believe What You See or Receive on Twitter

by Steve Schwartz on

Here's word to the wise for you, and more importantly for your children: don't automatically believe what you see or received on Twitter. This is true even if it is from your best friend, or more exactly from the twitter account of your best friend.

You may remember the incident on April 23, when at 1:07pm Washington, DC time, a tweet appeared on the Associated Press' Twitter account saying, "Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured".

Among others in Big Media, the AP uses its Twitter account to instantly move breaking stories of importance. It has some two million Twitter followers, and is closely monitored in many quarters including Wall Street. The phony tweet sparked a short-lived panic in the stock market briefly wiping out $136.5 billion of the S&P 500 index's value before AP's frantic clarifications went out saying their Twitter account had been hacked, and the story was untrue.

In April, along with the AP, hackers broke into and tweeted bogus messages from the Twitter accounts of CBS and NPR, accusing the U.S. government of "being in bed" with terrorists. The account of the international soccer governing body, FIFA, was also hacked. Accounts for Burger King and Jeep were hacked in February.

Exactly how the hackers managed to commandeer the AP's account is not known, and Twitter doesn't comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons.

It is suspected that an AP employee might have been victimized in a large email phishing attack that occurred just before the Twitter hacking.

Twitter is clearly a little panicked by the recent rash of major media account hacks. The company sent out a letter to client publications saying it expects more hacks and provided tips on how they might keep their Twitter accounts safe.

That advice is complicated and involved employing dedicated computers used specifically to tweet that are not in their normal systems.

So here's the relevant question for you, the parent: If the Twitter accounts of media giants like AP, CBS and NPR can be hijacked, how safe are you and your kids' accounts — or the accounts of friends they may be receiving tweets from?

Enter "Twitter hack" into a search engine and you get back pages and pages websites offering you free downloads of programs with which to hack Twitter accounts. They say it's really simple.

Twitter responds with advice about good password practices and the many password management computer programs that are available.

Or, for fun, go to:

As soon as you try to enter your password to find out, the site turns bright red and tells you: "Don't ever type your login and password (for) Twitter on a site that isn't (The) same with Facebook. And LinkedIn. I guess what I'm trying to say here is, don't be an idiot."

There's no need to call people names, but this is actually this is good, sound advice. So is if you receive any tweet that seems too unbelievable, it probably is unbelievable. At all other times, if you receive any tweet, accept it with a grain of salt.